The Diabetic Lung - A New Target Organ?

Article View

The Review of Diabetic Studies,2012,9,1,23-35.
Published:May 2012
Type:Review Article
Author(s) affiliations:

Dario Pitocco1,4, Leonello Fuso2,4, Emanuele G. Conte2, Francesco Zaccardi1, Carola Condoluci2, Giuseppe Scavone1, Raffaele A. Incalzi3, and Giovanni Ghirlanda1

1Diabetes Care Unit, Catholic University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

2Respiratory Disease Unit, Catholic University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

3Geriatric Medicine, University Campus Bio-Medico, Rome, Italy.

4Contributed equally to the paper.


Several abnormalities of the respiratory function have been reported in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. These abnormalities concern lung volume, pulmonary diffusing capacity, control of ventilation, bronchomotor tone, and neuroadrenergic bronchial innervation. Many hypotheses have emerged, and characteristic histological changes have been described in the “diabetic lung”, which could explain this abnormal respiratory function. Given the specific abnormalities in diabetic patients, the lung could thus be considered as a target organ in diabetes. Although the practical implications of these functional changes are mild, the presence of an associated acute or chronic pulmonary and/or cardiac disease could determine severe respiratory derangements in diabetic patients. Another clinical consequence of the pulmonary involvement in diabetes is the accelerated decline in respiratory function. The rate of decline in respiratory function in diabetics has been found to be two-to-three times faster than in normal non-smoking subjects, as reported in longitudinal studies. This finding, together with the presence of anatomical and biological changes similar to those described in the aging lung, indicates that the “diabetic lung” could even be considered a model of accelerated aging. This review describes and analyses the current insight into the relationship of diabetes and lung disease, and suggests intensifying research into the lung as a possible target organ in diabetes.